William Leap

William Leap is an emeritus professor of anthropology at American University (Washington DC) and an affiliate professor in the Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program at Florida Atlantic University (Boca Raton FL). He works in the overlapping fields of language and sexuality studies and queer linguistics, especially so, queer historical linguistics.

William Leap earned his bachelor's degree from Florida State University in 1967[1] and his Ph.D. from Southern Methodist University[2] in 1970. His dissertation advisor was George Trager.[3]


Leap has been openly gay since he began teaching at American University in Washington, D.C. in 1970.[1] Leap is a leading academic in Lavender linguistics and has been a recipient of the American Anthropological Association Ruth Benedict Award for publishing in Gay and Lesbian anthropology in 1996, 2003, and 2009. He founded the annual Lavender Languages & Linguistics conference in 1993 to coincide with the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation.[4] The conference continues to meet annually, and provides a focal point for international discussion of lgbtq-related language issues worldwide. The Lavender Language Institute, a summer program that Leap founded at Florida Atlantic University in 2017, offers training in queer linguistics to undergraduates, grad students, and others interested in language and sexuality studies. In 2012, Leap launched The Journal of Language and Sexuality with Heiko Motschenbacher.[5] He has been a member of the American Anthropological Association's AIDS task force[2] and co-chaired the AAA's Commission on Gay, Lesbian Bisexual, Trans and Queer Issues in Anthropology (1993-1998). He has done research among Native Americans of the Southwest U.S., South Africans, and Gay men in Washington, DC. He was one of the first researchers to study American Indian varieties of English (including American Indian Pidgin English) in the same way that others had studied Black English,[6] and he has been prominent in Indian language revitalization projects.[7]


  • 2020 Language Before Stonewall London: Palgrave.
  • 2020 Language, sexuality, history. in The Oxford Handbook of Language and Sexuality. Kira Hall and Rusty Barrett. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • 2016 Language, sexuality, heteroglossia and intersectionality. in The Routledge Handbook of Linguistic Anthropology. Nancy Bonvillain,. 177-190. New York: Routledge.
  • 2015 Queer linguistics as critical discourse analysis. in The Handbook of Discourse Analysis. Deborah Tannen, Heidi E. Hamilton and Deborah Schiffrin. 661-680.
  • 2012 Queer linguistics, sexuality and discourse analysis. in The Routledge Handbook of Discourse Analysis James Paul Gee and Michael Haniford eds. 558-571. New York: Routledge.
  • 2011 Language, gay pornography and audience reception. Journal of Homosexuality 58(6-7);932-952).
  • 2010 Homophobia as moral geography. Gender and Language 4(2):187-220.
  • 2009 Introducing Sociolinguistics, (2nd ed.) (Raj Mesthre, Joan Swann, Anna Deumert, and William Leap). Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press. (First edition, 2000)
  • 2009 (co-edited with Ellen Lewin) Out in Public: Lesbian and Gay Anthropology in a Globalizing World. Malden MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • 2008 Queering gay men's English. in Gender and Language Research Methodologies. Kate Harrington, Lia Lotosseliti, Helen Sauntson and Jane Sunderland. 283-296. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
  • 2007 (with Liz Morrish) Sex talk: Language, desire, identity and beyond. in Language, Sexualities, and Desires: Cross-Cultural Perspectives. Helen Sauntson and Sakis Kyratzsis. 17-40. London: Palgrave Press.
  • 2007 Queering the disaster: A Presidential session. (with Ellen Lewin and Natasha Wilson). North American Dialogues, 10(2):11-14.
  • 2005 "Finding the Centre: Claiming gay space in Cape Town, South Africa." in Performing Queer: Shaping Sexualities 1992-2004. Mikki van Zyl and Melissa Steyn, eds. pp. 235–266. Cape Town: Kwela Press.
  • 2004 "Marriage," "Family" and Same-Sex Marriage: Are We Addressing the Right Questions? Anthropology Newsletter, 45(6): 6.
  • 2004 (co-edited with Tom Boellstorff) Speaking in Queer Tongues: Globalization and Gay Language. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
  • 2003 Language and gendered modernity. in The Handbook of Language and Gender. Janet Holmes and Miriam Meyerhoff, eds. pp. 401–422. London: Blackwell
  • 2002 (co-edited with Ellen Lewin) Out in Theory: The Emergence of Lesbian and Gay Anthropology. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
  • 1998 (editor) Public Sex/Gay Space New York City: Columbia University Press.
  • 1996 (co-edited with Ellen Lewin) Out in the Field: Lesbian and Gay Reflections. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
  • 1996 Word's Out: Gay Men's English. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. (Now in second printing). A sociolinguistic discussion of gay English, including coded terms.[8]
  • 1996 Representation, subjectivity and ethics in urban gay ethnography (with Alan Hersker). City and Society, 12: 142-147.
  • 1995 Review essay: Liminal gender categories: Third Sex, Third Gender. [Gilbert Herdt, ed]. American Anthropologist, 87 (3): 589-590.


  1. Leap, William L. (1996). "Studying Gay English". In Ellen Lewin, William Leap (ed.). Out in the field: reflections of lesbian and gay anthropologists. University of Illinois Press. p. 0252065182.
  2. Kleiman, Carol (28 April 1991). "Anthropology Heads Into Business World". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 20 May 2011.
  3. "OBITUARY George L. Trager (1906-1992)". Newsletter of the Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas. 12-17. 1993.
  4. O'Bryan, Will (8 February 2007). "Speaking of Gay: Pioneering local conference continues study of 'Lavender Languages'". Metro Weekly. Retrieved 20 May 2011.
  5. "Breaking the Stereotype of LGBTQ Language". Echelon Magazine. 7 February 2011. Retrieved 20 May 2011.
  6. Stephen Adolphe Wurm; Peter Mühlhäusler; Darrell T. Tryon, eds. (1996). Atlas of languages of intercultural communication in the Pacific, Asia and the Americas. Walter de Gruyter. p. 1225. ISBN 3-11-013417-9.
  7. Cutler, Charles L. (2000). O Brave New Words!: Native American Loanwords in Current English. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 31. ISBN 0-8061-3246-9.
  8. Kitson, Peter; The English Association (1999). The Year's Work in English Studies. 77: YW 1996. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 66. ISBN 0-631-21293-0.
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